Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic that eliminated spectators for its Bing Crosby Season Fall Meet, Del Mar reported a 33% handle increase from 2019.

Del Mar Record Crosby Handle
Viadera (6) stuck her nose in front of stablemate Blowout to win Sunday’s Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar. The exciting finish capped a record handle for Del Mar’s Bing Crosby Meet. (Image: @DelMarRacing)

The San Diego-area seaside track checked in with a $195.9 million handle for its five-week fall meet, a byproduct of robust fields, more races, and strong, quality races. Horseplayers responded to average field sizes of 8.7 horses for turf races and 8.1 horses overall. That latter number reflects a 9.5% increase over 2019’s 7.4.

Those bigger fields had more opportunities to run. Del Mar ran 131 races this fall, a nearly 15% increase from last year’s 114. And Del Mar reported no horse fatalities during the five-week meet.

“The racing was extremely competitive and, judging by our handle numbers, horseplayers responded,” Del Mar Executive Vice President Tom Robbins said in a statement. “We raised purse levels prior to the meet and it’s gratifying to see that pay dividends.”

Eastern Invaders Feast on West Coast Turf

The track flexed its racing muscles with its closing weekend “turf festival,” when it ran seven graded stakes – all on the grass. This brought 20 horses westward from eastern tracks, along with standout eastern riders Irad Ortiz Jr., Joel Rosario, and Manny Franco.

It also captured the attention of Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, who ran in five of the seven turf stakes on Thanksgiving weekend. He won four of them and finished second in the fifth. That haul included both Grade 1s with Domestic Spending prevailing in the Hollywood Derby, and Viadera by a photo-finish nose over stablemate Blowout in the Matriarch.

Viadera’s mile time of 1:33.03 broke the Matriarch Stakes record by more than a second. It gave the 4-year-old Irish filly her first Grade 1 win, her third consecutive victory, and sixth in 13 starts. She paid $12.80 to win, with most of the money coming in on her Brown stablemate, Tamahere, who finished a non-threatening sixth.

Matriarch’s Top Four Separated by Less than a Length

Brown’s third horse, Blowout, finished half-a-length ahead of third-place Juliet Foxtrot. She, in turn, finished a neck ahead of fourth place Sharing, who ran against older horses for the first time. Viadera, meanwhile, gave Brown his 12th Del Mar stakes win, and Rosario his 30th stakes win at Del Mar.

As for Crosby Meet honors, Abel Cedillo captured the riding title with 19 wins, and Richard Baltus the training title with 11. Both repeated as meet champions.

Bing Crosby Season Checked all Del Mar’s Boxes

“A terrific meet on all levels,” Del Mar CEO Joe Harper said. “First and foremost, the horses and people who care for them were safe. Wagering, which fuels the industry’s economic engine, exceeded expectations and the racing product was, again, top-notch.”

Del Mar has eight months to get ready for its next close-up – its summer meet starts in mid-July. Next year’s Crosby Meet opens with the track playing host to the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 5 and 6.